Zab Judah: Crisis or opportunity?

08.06.07 - By Zhenyu Li: When standing at the crossroad, every crisis is an opportunity. After a year's suspension from boxing and suffering back-to-back major losses, the former undisputed welterweight champion Zab "Super" Judah is standing at the crossroad. On June 9th, he will take the challenge to square off against the undefeated two-division world champion Miguel Cotto. Zab Judah's back is against the wall. Can he turn this crisis into an opportunity.?

The year 2006 was not a good year for Zab Judah compared to the year he had previously. At the beginning of last year, he was on top of the world capturing the WBC, WBA and IBF belts from Cory Spinks by stopping him in an extraordinarily convincing fashion. By the end of the year, he was down in the mud losing all three titles and being suspended from boxing for a whole year.

Judah's latest effort was a 1 round no contest bout against journeyman Ruben Galvan in which Ruben Galvan suffered a deep cut on his forehead.

At 29, Judah has to make a choice: go downhill or redeem himself. The murderous-punching Puerto Rican bomber Cotto will be one of the most dangerous opponents Judah has ever faced, yet it will be a once-in-a-life opportunity for Judah to resurrect his career.

Judah seems to be one of those fighters who do better when they have something to prove. In spite of his back to back failures, he has a tendency to come through when you least expect it.

On May 2, 2005, with hundreds of fans pulling against him and a tough champion in front of him, the underdog Zab Judah who ended up on the short end of the judges' scorecards in his first encounter with the champion took care of unfinished business by unifying the welterweight division and terminating his old foe Cory Spinks in a devastating fashion.

On June 9, he will also appear as the underdog against Miguel Cotto at MSG. Believe it or not, contrary to his bout against Carlos Baldomir, in which he not only lost his titles but almost got knocked out in the process by a 35 year-old snail-slow journeyman with only 12 knockouts in 57 bouts, Judah will show up in top form. That would be the same Judah who fought brilliantly against Corey Spinks in their second confrontation.

A well-conditioned Judah unquestionably has the physical gifts to get the job done against Miguel Cotto. The former two-division world champion has a unique blend of blazing hand speed, nifty footwork, knockout power and raw athleticism. I noticed that he caused the pound for pound king Floyd Mayweather into trouble early on with his lightning hand speed and sensational footwork. He forced the then WBA/WBC king Kostya Tszyu to give ground several times and even wobbled the king with his laser-like shots and tremendous power.

While the relentless Puerto Rico punching machine possesses thundering power in both hands, a heavy armor and excellent boxing skills, he is not without his own weaknesses. His brawl against the former champion Demarcus Corley showed his limitation. Cotto repeatedly got connected by Corley’s right hand and had been rocked and staggered. He was clearly hurt before mustering his resolve and scoring a controversial fifth round TKO. Seven months later, he found his chin checked once again when taking on a lightly regarded Colombian 140-pounder Ricardo Torres. Cotto elected to bang with a banger and end up being badly hurt and knocked down. The bloody-nosed champion rallied to stop Torres on the seventh round, but his deficits were shown to all the naked eyes.

Cotto can be hit and buzzed. His has a suspect chin. He usually turns fights into wars and in the long run that usually makes for a short career. Besides, he isn't the most gifted boxer.

Conversely, Judah is an incredibly gifted athlete with super-fast reflexes, brilliant hand speed and shocking power which could make any adversity turn around. What he lacks is consistency. The tricky southpaw made the “Pretty Boy” very uncomfortable, outclassing him in hand speed, but he just couldn’t keep the momentum. Mayweather soon adjusted his tactics and took over with his timing and counter punch. Had Judah not slacked off, we possibly would have seen a different result.

Judah needs this fight badly to redeem himself. There is nothing intricate or masterful about Cotto’s style. He wears his deficits on his sleeve, but his power has more than compensated for his stiffness. It’ll be a test for Judah’s consistency and ring intelligence.

Whether it’s a crisis or an opportunity will be up to him.

Zhenyu Li is the senior writer for People’s Daily online. He can be reached at

Article posted on 09.06.2007

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